Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Joined: 06 Apr 2009
|Posted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:10 pm Post subject: Chappaquiddick - Ted Kennedy Character Assassination?
|Nixon link to Chappaquiddick
|Mary Jo Kopechne
About Mary Jo Kopechne
Mary Jo Kopechne was an American teacher, secretary, and political campaign specialist who died in a car accident at Chappaquiddick Island on July 18, 1969.
In 1964, she worked as secretary for Senator Robert F Kennedy following his election to the Senate. During the 1968 Presidential election, Kopechne helped with the wording of RFK’s speech announcing his presidential candidacy. During his campaign, she was one of six of the "Boiler Room Girls" who tracked and compiled data on voter intentions. Kopechne was devastated by RFK’s assassination, taking six months off to recover. As much as she worshipped RFK, she was a serious, professional activist and she started forging ahead with her career in late 1968/early 1969. A devout Roman Catholic with a cool demeanor, she rarely drank much and had no known dalliances with married men. 
The story of her death received as much coverage in the US press as Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing, that was occurring at the same time... 
Official Stories and Key Facts
On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The celebration was in honor of the dedicated work of the Boiler Room Girls, and was the fourth such reunion of the RFK campaign workers. There were six young women and six older, married men. Robert's brother Ted Kennedy was there, whom Kopechne did not know well.
Ted Kennedy was the youngest of Joe Kennedy Senior’s family. He became a senator in 1962 filling the space left vacant by JFK. He was not as gifted academically as Jack or Robert but he did well enough and was a robust sportsman. By 1969, the expectations of Kennedy political ambition rested on Ted’s shoulders and he was feeling the strain: politically and domestically: his marriage was in bad shape, due apparently to his womanizing and he was drinking heavily.
According to the official story, Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15pm with Ted, after he, according to his own account, offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, on the mainland. She did not tell her close friends at the party that she was leaving, and she left her purse and keys behind.
Kennedy then apparently “got lost” on the journey back to the mainland. There was effectively just one junction at which there was a simple left/right decision. Left to the ferry along the made up road or right down Dike Road down a dirt road. Apparently he took the wrong road away from the ferry head.
Christopher "Huck" Look, a deputy sheriff, off-duty at the time, came across Kennedy’s car in a side road by the only main junction on the whole island. He testified that between 12:30am and 12:45am he had seen the car containing a man driving and a woman in the front seat approaching the intersection with Dike Road. The car had gone first onto the private Cemetery Road and stopped there. Thinking that the occupants of the car might be lost, Look approached the car by foot. When he was 25 to 30 feet away, the car started backing towards him. When Look called out to offer his help, the car moved quickly eastward, towards the ocean, along the unpaved Dike Road in a cloud of dust at about 20mph and not heading towards the ferry head. 
Apparently the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 drove off a narrow, unlit bridge, which was without guardrails. The Oldsmobile landed in Pocha Pond and overturned in the water. Kopechne’s dead body was found in the car 10 hours later.
Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne's body were discovered the next morning. Kopechne's parents said that they learned of their daughter's death from Kennedy himself, before he informed authorities of his involvement. However, they learned Kennedy had been the driver from wire press releases some time later.
A week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He received a two-month suspended sentence. On a national television broadcast that night, Kennedy said that he had not been driving "under the influence of liquor" nor had he ever had a "private relationship" with Kopechne. Kopechne was buried the next day with no autopsy. Some months later Massachusetts officials pressed to have Kopechne's body exhumed for an autopsy, but in December 1969 a Pennsylvania judge sided with the parents' request not to disturb her burial site. 
The Chappaquiddick incident and Kopechne's death became the topic of at least 15 books factual and fictionalized. Questions remained about Kennedy's timeline of events that night, specifically his actions following the incident. The quality of the investigation has been scrutinized, particularly whether official deference was given to a powerful and influential politician and his family. The events surrounding Kopechne's death damaged Ted Kennedy's reputation and are regarded as a major reason that he was never able to mount a successful Presidential campaign. Kennedy died in 2009. He expressed remorse over his role in her death in his posthumously-published memoir, True Compass,  where he wrote of his fear and regrets surrounding the fateful events on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, when the car accident left a woman dead. In it he states his actions were "inexcusable." He says he was afraid and "made terrible decisions" and had to live with the guilt for more than four decades.
Detailed Account of Ted Kennedy’s Actions
Kennedy recalled later that he was able to swim free of the vehicle, but Kopechne was not. Kennedy claimed at the inquest that he called Kopechne's name several times from the shore, then tried to swim down to reach her seven or eight times, then rested on the bank for around fifteen minutes before returning on foot to Lawrence Cottage, where the party had occurred.
His route back to the cottage would have taken him past four houses from which he could have telephoned and summoned help. However, he did not do so. The first of those houses, referred to as "Dike House", was 150 yards away from the bridge and apparently illuminated through the night.
According to Kennedy's testimony, he sought help from cousin Joe Gargan and party co-host and Kennedy aide, Paul Markham. They returned to the waterway with Kennedy to try to rescue Kopechne. Both of the other men also tried to dive into the water and rescue Kopechne multiple times. When their efforts to rescue Kopechne failed, Kennedy testified, Gargan and Markham drove with Kennedy to the ferry landing, (the ferry had stopped running several hours earlier). Both insisting multiple times that the crash had to be reported to the authorities. According to Markham's testimony Kennedy was sobbing and on the verge of becoming crazed. Kennedy went on to testify that "I had full intention of reporting it. And I mentioned to Gargan and Markham something like, 'You take care of the other girls; I will take care of the accident!’ That is what I said and I dove into the water" [to swim back to the mainland]. Kennedy had already told Gargan and Markham not to tell the other women anything about the incident "because I felt strongly that if these girls were notified that an accident had taken place and Mary Jo had, in fact, drowned, that it would only be a matter of seconds before all of those girls, who were long and dear friends of Mary Jo's, would go to the scene of the accident and enter the water with, I felt, a good chance that some serious mishap might have occurred to any one of them". Gargan and Markam would testify that they assumed that Kennedy was going to inform the authorities and thus did not do so themselves.
According to his own testimony, Kennedy swam across a 500 foot channel, back to return to the mainland and to his hotel room, whereupon he removed his clothes and collapsed on his bed. Hearing noises, he later put on dry clothes and asked someone what the time was: it was something like 2:30am, the senator recalled. He testified that, as the night went on, "I almost tossed and turned and walked around that room ... I had not given up hope all night long that, by some miracle, Mary Jo had escaped from the car."
Back at his hotel, Kennedy complained at 2:55am to the hotel owner that he had been awoken by a noisy party. By 7:30am the next morning he was talking casually to the winner of the previous day's sailing race, with no indication that anything was amiss. At 8am Gargan and Markham joined Kennedy at his hotel where they had a "heated conversation." According to Kennedy's testimony, the two men asked why he had not reported the crash. Kennedy responded by telling them "about my own thoughts and feelings as I swam across that channel ... that somehow when they arrived in the morning that they were going to say that Mary Jo was still alive". The three men subsequently crossed back to Chappaquiddick Island on the ferry, where Kennedy made a series of telephone calls from a pay telephone near the crossing. The telephone calls were to his friends for advice and again, he did not report the crash to authorities.
Earlier that morning, two amateur fishermen saw the submerged car in the water and notified the inhabitants of the cottage nearest to the scene and the authorities were notified at 8:20am.
The police arrived at the scene about 10 or 15 minutes later. A diver arrived at 8:45am equipped with scuba gear, discovered Kopechne's body and extricated it from the vehicle within ten minutes. Police checked the car's license plate and saw that it was registered to Ted Kennedy. When Kennedy, still at the payphone by the ferry crossing, heard that the body had been discovered, he crossed back to Edgartown and went to the police station while Gargan went to the hotel where the "boiler room girls" were staying to inform them about the incident.
At 10am, Kennedy entered the police station in Edgartown, made a couple of telephone calls, then dictated a statement to his aide Paul Markham, which was then given to the police. The statement was as follows:
“On July 18, 1969, at approximately 11:15pm in Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, I was driving my car on Main Street on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road, instead of bearing hard left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately one-half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge. There was one passenger with me, one Miss Mary [Kopechne], a former secretary of my brother Senator Robert Kennedy. The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and the window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt. I was exhausted and in a state of shock. I recall walking back to where my friends were eating. There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the backseat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police.”
Problems with the Official Story
Escape from the Car / Cause of Death
Ted Kennedy’s escape from the car is unexplained. How did he managed to escape and yet Kopechne could not? In fact Kopechne’s body was found in the back seat with her head in the footwell of the backseat as if she was breathing in an air pocket of the inverted car. John Farrar, the diver who recovered Kopechne's body asserted that Kopechne did not die from the vehicle overturn or from drowning, but rather from suffocation, based upon the posture in which he found the body in the overturned vehicle. Farrar also asserted that Kopechne could have been rescued since he estimated that she survived for about two hours in that air pocket. There was no autopsy on the body. Kopechne’s cause of death is officially drowning. We do not know the relative state of intoxication or otherwise of either Kennedy or Kopechne. Blood found on Kopechne's long-sleeved blouse and in her mouth and nose also was not explained.
The changing story of Ted Kennedy’s Actions
By Ted Kennedy’s own admission his conduct during the hours immediately after the accident "made no sense to [him] at all". His doctors had informed him that he had suffered cerebral concussion and shock, but he did not seek to use his medical condition to escape responsibility for his actions. He "regard[ed] as indefensible that fact that [he] did not report the accident to the police immediately." Instead of notifying the authorities immediately, Kennedy "requested the help of cousin, Joe Gargan, and aide, Paul Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with [him] (it then being sometime after midnight) in order to undertake a new effort to dive down and locate Miss Kopechne". We do not have any details from Gargan or Markham (or even Kennedy) what efforts they made to locate Mary Jo. Clearly in the dead of night without underwater torches, any amateur effort would have been pathetic.
The Swim / The Last Ferry
Kennedy’s apparent impulsive swim back to the mainland is bizarre. Almost as-if it was quickly stuck into the story (it was not in his original statement) to account for witnesses seeing Kennedy at 2:30am and 2:55am on the mainland and Kennedy not being with Gargan and Markham on the island at the same time. Remember that the accident occurred on the opposite side of the two mile wide island from the ferry head which had the shortest distance across to the mainland. The ferry had closed down for the night some hours before.
Why did a sensible girl like Kopechne leave her purse and keys behind? Kopechne had an excellent reputation, not a party girl at all but even-so, she could have fallen under the spell of a Kennedy, since she was known to have hero-worshipped RFK. Ted Kennedy’s marriage had by this time come under severe strain and he was known to be womanizing and drinking heavily because of the stress of the job and assassination of two of his brothers. Kopechne, pretty as she was, seemed an unlikely choice for a dalliance.
The immediate gossip after the event was that Kennedy and Kopechne were about to have some private sexual encounter. They had eyes for each other rather than for the road…
A BBC Inside Story episode, "Chappaquiddick", broadcast on the 25th anniversary of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, advanced a theory that Kennedy and Kopechne had gone out from the party in Kennedy's car, but that when Kennedy saw off-duty policeman, Huck Look, in his patrol car, he got out of the car, fearing the political consequences of being discovered by the police late at night with an attractive woman. According to the theory, Kennedy then returned to the party while Kopechne, unfamiliar both with the large car and the local area, drove the wrong way and crashed off the bridge. The documentary argued this explanation would account for Kennedy's lack of concern the next morning (because he was unaware of the crash). 
Best-selling investigative writer Jack Olsen had earlier advanced a similar theory in his book “The Bridge at Chappaquiddick”, published in 1970. Olsen's book was the first full-length examination of the case. Olsen wrote that if she was the driver, 5’ 2” Kopechne may not even have seen the bridge as she drove Kennedy's big car over unfamiliar roads. Olsen noted that Kopechne normally drove a small Volkswagen. But how did she end up in the back seat? 
Deliberate Character Assassination
Both the Jack Olsen book and BBC Inside Story are more plausible than Ted Kennedy’s official statements and go some way to explain the evidence and exonerate Ted Kennedy from the failure to call for help and let Kopechne die. However it still fails on some aspects of the evidence: Kopechne still left her keys and purse behind (perhaps she was expecting to come back?), it ignores the fact that Huck Look was close enough to Kennedy’s car to see whether anyone got out or why Kopechne drove in the wrong direction, she had been to Chappaquiddick before and it is not a large island, she would know the difference between the made-up road going to the ferry and the unmade road going to the ocean side of the island. Finally it does not explain why Kennedy or somebody else has not “come clean” and told the truth.
One scenario does explain all these facts: Kopechne’s death was a deliberate set up to perform a character assassination on Ted Kennedy. Kennedy left the party at around 11:15pm and since he was too intoxicated or tired to drive, was taken back to the mainland in someone’s car on the last ferry. Wall flower Kopechne was also preparing to leave the party before the ferry closed but was separated from the party by one or more assassins. This would explain the blood discovered on her body. The assassins then stole Kennedy’s car and drove it to the far end of the island. The assassin stopped briefly to make arrangements for the supposed accident and this brief hiatus was observed by Huck Look. The assassins drove down Dike Road and then rigged the car to drive off into the pond. The assassins waited until they were sure Kopechne was dead before escaping. A warning was then sent to Gargan and/or Markham stating that Kennedy either took the full blame for the death or they would target his family or the other Boiler Room Girls. He would look bad in either scenario but one route could lead to considerable risk to loved ones. Essentially he was blackmailed into silence, forever, to his death and beyond, since he could never know who the killers are or when they would strike! This explains why Kennedy was on the mainland in dry clothes at 2:30am, being unaware of events in the morning, his slow acceptance of responsibility in his telephone calls and statement in the morning and his changing and, frankly, ridiculous story of swimming across to the mainland in the early hours of the morning.
However, in order to consider this murder theory, would all the people at the party: six single women and six married men need to be considered as potential killers? The scenario becomes like a giant game of Clue or the plot of an Agatha Christie novel… but there is not enough detail in order to arrive at any definitive conclusion. This Murder / Character Assassination scenario is very fanciful but consider two more key facts:
A) Kopechne may not have just been a random victim but especially targeted because of the knowledge she had.
B) Richard Nixon had Ted Kennedy tailed.
Kopechne as a Target
Kopechne was living with Nancy Carole Tyler  at the time of the JFK assassination in 1963. Tyler worked as secretary to Bobby Baker who was in the center of a scandal associated with LBJ... while Kopechne who worked for George Smathers, a friend of JFK, who apparently had been privately offered the job of vice-president in the 1964 presidential election. According to JFK researcher William Penn Jones Jr, it was Tyler and Kopechne who informed Baker (and hence to LBJ) that JFK planned to replace LBJ with Smathers as Veep. Tyler later appeared before the United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration investigating Baker's business and political activities and refused to testify, citing her Fifth Amendment rights. On May 9, 1965, Tyler died when a single-engine two person biplane in which she was a passenger crashed in the sea near Ocean City, Maryland. The cause of the crash being pilot error after an improper execution of a low-level aerobatic maneuver. Or another bizarre state-sponsored murder? In which case, Kopechne is equally as likely to also have been targeted.
Richard Nixon was President at the time of the Chappaquiddick incident. He hated the Kennedys and (after Chappaquiddick) even had Ted Kennedy under a 24-hour-a-day Secret Service surveillance in an effort, in Nixon's own words, "to catch him in the sack with one of his babes."  Was one of his “Dirty Tricks” teams in place beforehand to engineer Kopechne’s death? The timing with the climax of the Apollo Space program, conceived by JFK, seems suspiciously coincidental… The use of “News Management” in the 2001-2008 George W Bush Presidential era is well known  but management of news stories for political ends is probably as old as politics itself. Did Nixon try to spoil any rosy-eyed view of the Kennedys and JFK’s initiation of the manned moon mission but green-lighting a dirty trick at Chappaquiddick?
Who benefits from Mary Jo’s death? The ability to smear the Kennedy’s reputation and expose the drinking and womanizing that undoubtedly was going on… is this reminiscent of another murder? That of Marilyn Monroe? The circumstances have an uncanny parallel but this time the weapon used was clearly associated with the target: Ted Kennedy’s Oldsmobile.
All of Kennedy’s political rivals, principally, Richard Nixon, benefitted from not having a Kennedy in the presidential race.
Summary and Conclusion
It is sad that we will never hear Kopechne’s side of the story. She had deep insight into the events surrounding the JFK and RFK assassinations and now her only place in history is the unfortunate victim of Chappaquiddick. Probably nobody will ever know what happened July 18, 1969 on that small island. All we do know is that Ted Kennedy’s explanation has too many holes to be true. It seems that the network and pattern of murders around the Kennedys indicates that there really was a curse... not a supernatural one... but a coordinated set of assassinations carried out by people frightful of the Kennedy’s popular appeal and progressive agenda. Whether this was another example of such cannot be easily determined. So the likelihood of Kopechne being victim of a State Sponsored Assassination is probably no more than 40%. (Author’s estimate on balance of evidence).
Ted Kennedy, the youngest of the brothers and least academically gifted, became the "The Lion of the Senate" through his long tenure at the US Senate. More than 300 bills that Kennedy and his staff wrote were enacted into law. Unabashedly liberal, Kennedy championed an interventionist government emphasizing economic and social justice, but was also known for working with Republicans to find compromises between senators with disparate views. He tried a run to be elected as the Democratic nominee for President in 1980 running against incumbent President Carter. But the Chappaquiddick incident would forever block his chances at the top office. He died in 2009 from a brain tumor aged 77.